Villa of the Papyri

In 79AD when Vesuvius erupted, the pyroclastic surges which covered Herculaneum in metres of solid rock made the area extremely difficult to excavate, but also preserved a wide range of organic materials (plant based objects) which helps historians and archaeologists learn more about life in this ancient Roman town.

The Villa of the Papyri is possibly one of the most well known villas of the region and is known for containing the largest library of papyri scrolls which has been found. The scrolls were carbonised and only recent advances in technology have made it possible to read the writing on the scrolls. The library covered a broad range of content including philosophy and poetry about deaths, ethics, music, love and madness. This provides historians and archaeologists access to texts which have long considered to be lost and information about the literature of the time and the past.

The building also provides glimpses into the lives of the elite who had the money to build magnificent buildings with incredible views and outfit them with mosaics and sculptures. The artistic features left behind give archeologists clues to the kind of art which was popular at the time and are also evidence of gods, animals and people providing pictorial evidence as to how they were viewed. The entrance of the villa led to an atrium and then on to a peristyle which was an open courtyard surrounded by columns. To the east of a peristyle was a courtyard and to the west was a tablinium, which was the master bedroom. The tablinium opened onto a garden surrounded by columns with a fish pond in the middle. Past the garden was a terrace and tower. The layout of the house provides archaeologists with information about the way buildings were built and the architectural designs present at the time.

The villa has not been completely excavated although it is hoped that further excavations will provide more evidence about life in Herculaneum before the eruption.


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